One of the best moments of my life happened on 31 December 2012, and it’s nice, in a way, to know a highlight happened so recently. It was a mixture of the micro and macro things that make Billygean happy. I was in a role at work which made me very happy, and I was starting to know what I was doing. I had saved a bit of money, was no longer on the breadline like I had been for so many years. I was having a glass of champagne and wearing a new suit I got for Christmas. I was almost entirely alone with a box of Quality Streets and padded around the office in my socks; it feeling like a warm and comfortable second home to me. I was going to be the last one to the New Year’s Eve party because I wanted to make sure everything was sorted at work – so different to the years before when I either wasn’t going to a New Year’s Eve party because I was in the Robert Peel Hospital weeing blood and being tested for glandular fever, or because I was at home, ill, or I was the first one to all the parties because I had nowhere else to be. I took a picture of myself in the work loos before I left – a shameless selfie – which I recently set as the background on my phone but I had to take it off because it upset me.
And here I am a mere nine months later and I am unhappy. It is mostly just the endless toil and boredom of my ill-health (which is actually improving; cue the angst), but some other things have happened too, last week, which I am not willing to write about (what’s that? I got some boundaries?). I have been keeping this blog post in my head, because I know it’s a wankerish thing to do to tell half the story, but here I am at 00.58 and it is coming out.
I am unhappy, internet. Here is my unhappiness. Let me show it to you. It is grey. I don’t need to tell you how much I want to be at work and how important it is to me to achieve something with these past few months, but it seems when you are ill in the way I am – invisibly, mostly; chronically, and, most frustratingly, inconsistently – you have to constantly work against the assumption that you are weak, feckless and lazy. Or, worst, unfortunate. I am none of these things, nor do I consider myself unlucky, and ironically, I am “working harder” than ever before – on my writing, on staying positive, on being compassionate when people say twatish things to me – but I really do get the impression some people think I am these things. Or at least, they think them more than they used to. There’s a 28 year-old lawyer, she’s successful. There’s a girl who got ill, poor her, bet she watches TV all day and is a bit meek and could probably do a bit better. And it fucks me off because I actually think I am doing a stellar job at salvaging what has been lost from these past few months. I have kept up to date with loads of people at work even though it pains me to do so. I am trying to get my book published. I am still a very nice girlfriend and daughter and aunt, even though I am sad.
People respond differently to me now. I think it is a distancing thing – a way of pretending healthy people are different, that they won’t get sick – but it really bloody well fucks me off all the same. I see it all the time; in a locum GP telling me patiently there was nothing wrong with my blood work, in an acquaintance telling me I have to go back to work sometime, seeing people dismiss me if I tell them I am not currently working, watching their body language transform when I tell them I am in the law; watching people react when I tell them I am off sick, but querying literary agents, even though it wouldn’t mean I was lazy if I wasn’t. I shouldn’t have to prove these things; there are three decades of evidence that I am determined and hard-working. And yet, because I am ill, I do seem to have to.
I am colourblind. I am blue-yellow colourblind, not the “standard” red-green. I can’t tell blues and greens apart at all easily and I can’t fly RAF planes (for, er, more than just the colourblindness reason). This is the only effect it has on me really. However, I hardly ever tell anybody because I think you get to have one revolving drama and if you add any more to that people start to think you’re a bullshitter. I do it to others: if they tell one-too-many drama queen stories I do tend to switch off, deeming them either full of shit or self involved; indeed, I have not lost the right to call bullshit or be sceptical just because I am experiencing a bout of bad luck myself. And I think that just as people are not inclined to believe multiple dramas/illnesses/idiosyncracies, they also have a tolerance for about one month of someone being miserable/chronically ill/sad.
But here I am, internet. I bake cakes and make hot chocolate and find happiness in every day, and I think I am actually finally getting slowly better – the virus has been a bit milder – but if on New Year’s Eve you would have told me I would be here again, and ill again, and sad again, I would have cried.